Last Saturday 11th July 2015, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World population Day 2015 in Sembabule district. The commemoration activities organised by the Population Secretariat in partnership with United Nations Population Fund brought together leaders from every shade of the population to celebrate this important activity on the world calendar. This year’s global theme focused on Vulnerable Populations in Emergencies, whilst in Uganda it was localised to Prioritizing Community Transformation: Addressing the needs of Vulnerable Populations
This momentous day came at time when, many youths in Uganda, including refugees, most of whom are adolescents face numerous challenges related to their individual health, including STIs, HIV/AIDS, sexual violence which leads to unwanted pregnancy, and drug abuse. It is reported that by the age of 18, over 62% of young women and almost 48% of young men in Uganda have already had their first sexual encounter (UBOS and ICF International, 2012).
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey Report (2011), GBV against women (15-49 years) and girls (15-24 years) is high at 64% and 56% respectively compared to 59% against all men and 55% against boys (15-24years). Similarly, Sexual violence is also higher at 22.8% among girls (15-24 years) than among boys (8.8%). The Police Annual Crime report 2013indicates defilement as the leading sex related crime reported in the country with a total of 9,598 cases reported compared to 8,076 cases registered in 2012 and 7,690 reported in 2011.
This implies that nearly 26 girls most of them adolescents are defiled every day in this country which further translates into two to three girls every hour that goes by. Many children in Uganda, including refugee children are victims of defilement, child prostitution and early marriages due various reasons such as lack of proof of age, conflict, cultural practices, poverty etc.
While on his official visit, the area MP and also the president of the UN General assembly Mr. Sam Kutesa thanked the organizers population secretariat and UNFPA for choosing Sembabule as the venue to celebrate the day. He called for young people’s inclusion into key government programmes. “Today 70% of our population is below 25 years. This must not be seen as a challenge but rather an opportunity. we should plan for them through enhancing their skills and build their technical capacity in order to build a strong generation” said Mr. Kutesa
Speaking at the function to mark this year’s world population Day in Semababule district, the UNFPA country representative in UgandaMs. Fundira Esperance called on the government and the international community to a round table effort to come up with strategies to protect the health and rights of women and girls. She also highlighted the need to create an infrastructure that would enable women, adolescents’ girls and young people in the country to play a more visible role in peace talks, peace building and recovery in addition to ensuring that government comply with the international laws and bring perpetuators of sexual violence to justice.
“By prioritizing health, rights, and the full participation of women, adolescent girls and young people in public life, we increase our prospects for a more just, stable and peaceful world.” Said Esperance
At the same event, president Museveni as the chief guest noted that a number of children in Uganda below the one year has been reduced from approximately 122 deaths for every 1000 live births to 54 deaths out the 1000 children born alive and this he attributed to the government mass immunization campaign and the general improvement in the health services in the country.
The president also used this space to call on Ugandans to improve on their hygiene conditions and nutrition in order for them to reduce on child mortality. The president also noted the need to help address the specific need of Refugees because their wellbeing benefits the country as a whole in the long run.
He also observed that his government is working around the corner to ensure peace and stability within the great lakes region. He commended the UN General Assembly’s president Sam Kutesa also Sembabule area member of parliament as the foreign affairs minister for his role in steering the world in the next development agenda post 2015. Museveni also pledged to take advantage of the population increase to equip young people with skills to enable them to engage in development activities.